What Does it Take to Lessen the Gap Between Work and Motherhood?
I have been having conversations around this very topic with clients during osteopathic treatment. I can confidently say that it accounts for much of the pent-up tension that causes the symptoms that bring them in for treatment. The perpetual struggle between meeting the needs of work and motherhood (not to mention health, finances and relationships!) is the unspoken discomfort. Whilst stretches and treatment can help manage the symptoms for the individual, tackling the issues head-on requires a systemic change. Everyone has different needs so a one-size-fits-all approach has limited value. This poses a logistical issue for larger companies, but flexibility is a key attribute to more integration between home and work lives.
Flexibility might mean offering flexi-hours, or working from home, and the gold standard where companies offer this to dads to so they can be involved in pick ups or drop offs and have quality time during the week. It might also mean taking a career break, which requires financial backup and assurance that there's something to return to. http://www.shesback.co.uk/ is one initiative worth looking at for senior professionals returning to work. There's often an attitude that more traditional industries such as law and banking can't offer flexible working. However it takes some pioneers to push through the archaic systems and find more innovative ways.
Mentoring- whether in a formal sense or having more leaders sharing their experiences of combining work and motherhood, and sharing what's worked and what hasn't worked for them. Many of us want to do things differently to how other mothers did, but need more examples so we can discern what works for us. It is possible to have a fulfilling career and a family. Supportive and open professional groups can offer the 'sisterhood' that's often needed to bring change by numbers, as witnessed by organisations such as Mumsnet and Doula UK.
Childcare options - there are so many choices to be made, more more flexible access, city creches and reducing the cost of childcare costs. Since for many families, the 'village' that it takes to raise a child is less accessible, the emphasis needs to be on paid options.
Entrepreneurship - I recently heard someone talking about the best way to go through the glass ceiling is to go around it by setting up your own company. According to the ONS, women accounted for 80% of the new self-employed between 2008-2011. RBS calculated that boosting female entrepreneurship could deliver approximately £60bn extra to the UK economy. Google campus run groups for mums and dads https://www.campuslondon.com/programmes/mums and Mothers Meeting http://mothers-meeting.com/ has shown a hip and forward-thinking approach to career.
What's true is that more change needs to occur to support mothers in the workplace, or the lack of diversity at senior levels will continue.